Lloyd Williams, President/CEO, Great Harlem Chamber Of Commerce
From the Harlem is . . . exhibit of Community Works:
If the business of America is business, then Harlem Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Lloyd Williams applies this truism to a tee. For over a quarter century Williams has led the Chamber, pinpointing its focus on business development and increasing tourism. To this end, Williams co-founded HARLEM WEEK and the Harlem Jazz & Music Festival 35 years ago.
HARLEM WEEK began as a one-day event, and has expanded to the entire month of August, annually attracting over 3 million people and generating entrepreneurial and job opportunities for hundreds. He is also the co-founder and co-chairperson of the National Black Sports & Entertainment Hall of Fame and Museum, based in Harlem.
“My family has been in Harlem for eighty years,” Williams explained. “When I grew up in Harlem, it was exciting and great place to grow up. Music. Art. Culture. We did not know that we were what they called “poor” because we didn’t feel poor. We didn’t act poor. We felt that this was just a fabulous place to be.”
He says he learned much from his godfather, Malcolm X, but even more from Harlem’s poet laureate, Langston Hughes, whom he just knew as his English tutor. His elementary school years were difficult, because of his behavior. But his folks, originally from Cuba and Jamaica, straightened him out, as did his experience at Harlem’s Wadleigh Junior High School, which he says “was the best education he ever had, the foundation for everything that followed.”
That’s saying a lot, since Williams attended Brooklyn Tech H.S., earned a B.A in Fine Arts from Syracuse University, his law degree from Stanford University and a Master’s in Business Administration from Fordham University.
From his grounding in Harlem, Williams has traveled the world over, visiting six of seven continents. He is an ambassador for Harlem everywhere he goes. “Harlem is a magical place. Harlem is an international community, a melting pot. Harlem is where music, education, political activism happens, where business deals are made, where religions meet.” “Moreover,” he declared, “Harlem is a state of mind, not just a piece of territory.”